Tom Schweich, Missouri's new auditor, wussed out of an assignment, and he's rejecting criticism that he did it for political reasons.
Citing uncertainty, Schweich says he cannot calculate the budgetary implications of a scheme to replace the state's income tax with a higher sales tax, a fancy of retired investor (and Schweich campaign contributor) Rex Sinquefield. House Minority Leader Mike Talboy, a Kansas City Democrat, and others say Schweich is copping out of his duty to analyze the petition-driven effort to change the state's tax system.
The auditor typically tries to attach a dollar sign to measures that petitioners place on the state ballot. But when Sinquefield's initiatives hit his desk, Schweich reached for his Magic 8-Ball and came up with "cannot predict now." Schweich's fuzziness may have something to do with an Office of Budget and Planning suggestion that the new tax structure could underfund the state by more than $1 billion.
Talboy is mocking Schweich, a Republican, for not being able to provide voters with "meaningful information on which to base a decision," calling his effort "woefully inadequate." Schweich says Talboy is out of line:
Your letter improperly attempts to exert political influence on an office that operates in a nonpartisan manner, inappropriately questions my integrity, and insults the high quality professional accounting and legal staff that advised me on this manner. We do not appreciate your politically motivated publicity stunt and give it no weight whatsoever.Of course, a member of Schweich's own party is running around and telling people that the auditor's office is going to be all kinds of partisan now that it's in GOP hands.
Cameras were rolling when Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder addressed the Jasper-Newton County Lincoln Day dinner on Saturday. During his remarks, Kinder celebrated Schweich's victory over Democrat Susan Montee last November, telling his fellow Republicans that the Missouri auditor's office was poised to "take the game to the other side." Kinder, in other words, expects Schweich's reports to make Democrats look like boobs.
Game taking doesn't sound nonpartisan or professional. So will Schweich condemn Kinder's remarks in the same way that he came after Talboy? His spokesman did not respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.